Best Of The Year (July – December 2016)

So we’ve made it through the second half of 2016 and the time has come for the second instalment of our half yearly round-up. Back in June I was saying it felt like we’d already been through most of a year, but famous deaths and shocking news stories have turned into a constant theme. It’s almost like a meme has been established and the world’s journalists have simply been searching for more stories that fit the trope. Yes, 2016, you’ve really been trolling us with all of these bizarre twists: Trump, Brexit, the train strikes, the rising celebrity death-count and of course the shock ending of Brangelina! Of course all this is merely the support band and music itself is the big star for us here at Brightonsfinest.com. We’ve asked our writers to pick out their favourite album and show of 2016, as well as an album we missed for review when it was released. Read on to see what we loved from the last six months…

Best of July – December 2016
 


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Emmy the Great – Green Door Store – 5th December 2016

Emmy the Great lives up to her name

Emma-Lee Moss, AKA Emmy the Great, has had a great year. She’s released her strongest, and most immediate, album to date, Second Love. She’s also quite possibly pulled off the double, by releasing ‘Go Far’, a very strong contender for single of the year. To mark 2016 as a fine vintage, Moss has embarked on a little tour. Stopping off in Brighton, I made sure I was there to witness this very special performer in what is a very intimate space.

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Matthew & Me – Interview – 2016

Matthew & Me’s new EP Startpoint is a hotbed of soaring instrumentation and epic soundscapes that take you on an explorative journey. After perfecting their craft for over half a decade, the songwriting pair of Mattew Board and Lucy Fawcett were signed by innovative record label Beatnik this year and have just completed a short UK tour to support the recent release. I caught the band after their headline show at the Rialto Theatre.

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Pete Doherty – Hamburg Demonstrations

Seven years after his solo debut album Grace/Wastelands Pete Doherty is back, releasing his latest creation Hamburg Demonstrations on the 2nd of December 2016. The Babyshambles/Libertines frontman’s debut was generally well received by music critics in 2009, with The Observer stating the album said “goodbye to Pete Libertine the Rehab King, and say hello to Peter Doherty, outstanding singer-songwriter and charismatic poet-vagabond. It's a pleasure finally to meet him." With this in mind, Hamburg Demonstrations looks set to be a hit with fans, embodying political and social comments into his famous simplistic poetry and slacker melodies.

Produced, recorded and mixed by Johann Scheerer, Doherty traveled to Hamburg to create the album, after turning up ‘unannounced’ at the Clouds Hill Recordings studio and moving to the German city for six months. The album certainly reflects the mindset of Doherty, a relaxed and comfortable feel encompasses all the tracks regardless of content, suggesting the artist enjoyed this endeavour and his time in Europe.

The single off the album; ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)’ is a far more tranquil affair than the ferocity of the Libertines and Babyshambles. It opens with a quiet and ambient guitar solo, characteristic of Doherty’s music, and is a fine, melodic example of Doherty’s ability to rely on his lyricism rather than scuzzy guitars and percussion. The single, released in September, is full of poetic charm and undoubtedly excited fans about the direction of the full album.

Doherty follows through with the rest of Hamburg Demonstrations. One of the most anticipated tracks from the December release is a new recording of the Amy Winehouse tribute ‘Flags of The Old Regime’ (now called ‘Flags From The Old Regime’). The track is endlessly haunting, evoking Doherty’s sensitivity around the subject of Winehouse so well that it is hard not to empathise with the emotions conveyed in his lyrics. The track is wholesome, raw and beautifully sincere. Doherty maintains a quietness in his voice throughout the entire track that is soulful and fragile, demonstrating the lost friendship following Winehouse’s passing in 2011.

The depth of this album typified by Doherty’s track ‘Hell to Pay at the Gates of Heaven’, written after the Paris attacks last November. Doherty’s lyrics lament the idea that young people are now choosing guns over guitars: “Come on boys, choose your weapon, J-45 or AK-47.” Despite the topic of the track being somewhat sensitive, Doherty displays his frustration with the violence of young people in an upbeat and slightly mocking tone. The track has a trivial feel to it, that weaves perfectly in and out of Doherty’s well crafted poetry that critiques the attacks, while encouraging young people to pursue music as a means of expression.

‘Kolley Kibbler’, the opening track of the album is equally poetically charming inspired by Kolley Kibbler, the newspaper man who meets a sticky end at the beginning of Brighton Rock. The track introduces the entire album as a fresh release from Doherty that is entirely recognisable, but also fun and a world away from the drug fuelled lyricism that dominated his Libertines years. The track is youthful, playful and a fantastic choice as the album opener.

Hamburg Demonstrations is, all in all, a coherent and beautifully simple album that was well worth the seven year wait since Grace/Wastelands. Doherty manages to pour his heart and soul into every track while displaying a calmness that reflects his current mindset gracefully. The album will undoubtedly be a hit with old fans and anyone willing to give Doherty another chance.
Siân Blewitt

Website: albionrooms.com
Twitter: twitter.com/petedoherty
Facebook: facebook.com/peterdohertyofficial

 

 

Brian Fallon & The Crowes – Concorde 2 – 15th November 2016

Brian Fallon kicked off his UK tour in style at Concorde 2 with his touring band The Crowes, in a lively and vibrant set comprised of songs both new and old. He has previously said that he initially felt worried at touring away from his regular band, following last year's indefinite hiatus of The Gaslight Anthem – one of the biggest rock bands of the last decade. He told Rolling Stone magazine in March, “it’s all on you (when you’re solo), there’s no shield” but those worries must surely now be behind him following the warm reception to his first solo album Painkillers and a series of sold-out shows around the world.

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Sleaford Mods – Brighton Dome – 31st October 2016

Having never previously seen The Sleaford Mods perform but having enjoyed the recent album and latest single 'TCR' ( if just for the sheer bravado and vitriol sarcasm and wit of their music) I was more than curious to see how this would translate to the Dome stage. A venue you would consider the last place to encapsulate their values and natural fan base it was a night when Brighton seemed more intent on celebrating Halloween in a spiritual and hedonistic fashion than through social and political injustices.

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Bear’s Den – Brighton Dome – 1st November 2016

In the short time since their last performance in Brighton back in February 2015, Bear’s Den have had what they described as a “conscious untripling” with founding member Joey Haynes leaving the group, released their second album Red Earth & Pouring Rain and embarked on a worldwide tour. Tonight, they returned as worthy headliners at a sold out Brighton Dome with fantastic support from Matthew And The Atlas, and Patrick James.

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Palace – So Long Forever

The rich and sultry sound of Palace has earned them well-deserved recognition in their short life as a band. The friends, consisting of Leo Wyndham (vocals, guitar), Rupert Turner (guitar), Will Dory (bass) and Matt Hodges (drums), have certainly taken their time in producing their first album, and their reasoning for this clearly comes in the form of perfectionism.

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Hooton Tennis Club – Big Box of Chocolates

Big Box of Chocolates doesn’t give much away about the sound of an upcoming album, and it definitely doesn’t mirror the velvety rich sound I was expecting to come from Hooton Tennis Club’s second album. Scuzzy guitars and unhinged tunes make this album a toast to mid-twenties angst and middle of the line indie.

The Merseyside boys’ creation is a playful narration of their personal lives and the characters within it. Each track brings an eccentric character to life and is filled with effervescence. ‘Bootcut Jimmy the G’ is the first individual to feature on the album and see himself beautifully depicted through tongue-in-cheek lyricism and lo-fi guitar riffs. The album is storytelling at its best – light hearted, gently novel and set to a fuzzy, tune-filled backdrop.

‘Katy-Anne Bellis’ is a perfect example of the Liverpool boys’ ability to illustrate even the simplest of tales into gorgeous four-minute tracks to bob your head to. Written about the lads’ friend who has moved away, and set around begging her to visit at least once, the track brings a sense of nostalgia with its charming guitar riffs and sweet lyrics. The concept is sentimental, but the sound mirrors a genre of alternative rock that was at its pinnacle in 2008, when bands such as Lightspeed Champion and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly dominated the scene. This couples a sense of indie adolescence with a technical maturity seen in the band's catchy and well-structured melodies, a perfect combination for an easy to listen to and joyful album.

‘Meet Me at the Molly Bench’ is another track on the album that clearly reflects the band’s ability to create an appreciable album without overworking themselves. The track encompasses traits from slacker rock-esque bands in its production, and a happy-go-lucky melody suggests that, while these guys are slowly cracking their way into the mainstream industry, they’re not trying too hard. With a percussive bike bell jangling in the back of this track, the enjoyment of making this album can really be felt. According to the foursome, they locked themselves away in Helmsdale, “drank copious amounts of tea, became bird watchers and whiskey tipplers” while recording.

The album ends with a bizarre ode to BBC radio presenter Lauren Laverne in ‘Lauren I’m in Love’; “Lauren sends her love to lift my Monday blues, and now the news / All through the day she keeps me company,” and a fabulously melancholic track ‘Frostbitten in Fen Ditton.’ This wistful half-ballad romantically combines melancholy with optimism. Its capacity to couple disillusionment with romanticism and quiet hope make it the perfect example of this album’s endless charisma.

Big Box of Chocolate is an allegiance to this band’s boyish enthusiasm and magnetic friendship, wittingly using relatable narratives to sell a 90s-esque, slacker rock, loveable 12 track journey through Liverpool and the boys’ personal thoughts and feelings.

Facebook: facebook.com/HootonTennisClub
Twitter: twitter.com/hootontennisclb

 

Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow

Two Door Cinema Club’s latest album, Gameshow, certainly makes for a challenging listen. Although the band have well and truly stepped away from their comfort zone, a move that has been encouraged following their last two albums, their new release is professional yet disorderly. The success of their 2012 release The Beacon has clearly led long term friends and band-mates Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday and Kevin Baird to a crossroads that has unwittingly manifested itself in the form of 80s synth pop. Whether this works with the legacy Two Door Cinema Club have created in the past is questionable.

The album does not stray shockingly far from their usual sound, maintaining the jittery, foot-tapping electro pop that made them so popular back in 2012. Indeed, 80s nostalgia and disco almost sits adjacent to the atmosphere created with The Beacon, partly explaining the conversion. However, the band appear to have not tackled the change quite as well as other bands who have attempted to incorporate this era into their new releases.

It’s not surprising that the band have refocused their efforts in a different direction considering they have been surrounded by criticism regarding their lack of development and direction in the last two albums. Despite Tourist History and Beacon churning out indie pop hits like 'Someday' and 'Undercover Martyn', there were only so many times the band could recycle their money-making riffs.

'Are We Ready? (Wreck)' is a peppy opener to the album but does little to stand out, followed by their anthem-ready single 'Bad Decisions'. You can certainly tell the band have drawn influences from Bowie and Prince in this falsetto-heavy track. Alex Trimble’s lyrics lightly touch on the issue of the internet and the information overload it has created. It appears as though social commentary is a theme lying discretely behind most tracks on this neo-disco creation. 'Ordinary' focuses on a criticism of the celebrity world and suggests that anonymity is the way forward. It feels almost as though Trimble and the band have decided to illustrate the reasoning and feelings behind their 2012 hiatus in this album, although it seems strange that it has been done to a backdrop of synth pop.

Generally the album lacks personality, however, their 80s influences prove themselves relatively positive through the curved guitar solos in 'Fever' and 'Invincible'. These tracks bring the feel of the album up a little and definitely add some zest but, unfortunately, don’t deliver the hard-hitting indie pop vibes that made the band famous or come close to anything that could be considered a hit.

All in all, it feels as though Two Door Cinema Club have worked hard to create something that reflects the creative crossroads that the group have been on. It is admirable that they have attempted to change direction. The hard work and professionalism is obvious in this album. Unfortunately the sound they have created just doesn’t quite work. While their cliché indie pop was samey and safe, it was also undeniably catchy and kept the band’s legacy alive and well. This album seems inconsistent, their move towards 80s disco had potential, but is not memorable enough and the result is relatively uninteresting.
Sian Blewitt

Website: twodoorcinemaclub.com
Facebook: facebook.com/twodoorcinemaclub
Twitter: twitter.com/TDCinemaClub